The Instagrams are growing

My Instagram accounts are growing and are all filled with images not seen on any of my websites. I’d love to hear what your reactions are, and if you have any suggestions on where to connect them or how to improve them for my viewers. Even though I am an image maker, I gravitate to the places that are more conducive to some conversation alongside the image sharing, like this blog and Facebook. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to make Instagram work for you and for me.

Annaliese Tassano Photo Arts Instagram

I do not usually cross post from my other brands, but some of you are image lovers of every stripe:

Equigraphic Instagram

Stage Right Photo Instagram

Thanks for the feedback.

New Gear!

I am getting ready for some serious time on the road. Yeehaw! With travel in mind, I bit the bullet and got a new travel tripod. My major concern was balancing weight, packability for flights,  and stability. I was not 100% gung-ho for one thing over the other. As is my way, I researched for hours. Days! Weeks! The first piece I got clear on: I definitely wanted a double folding travel style. With that out of the way, I quickly came to see that paying a couple hundred dollars more for  carbon fiber over good old aluminum would only save me a few ounces. Since I am not plotting a pack trip, I decided the savings of hundreds was worth it to carry a few more ounces a little way on my adventures. In the end I went with MeFoto Globetrotter in Aluminum. I wanted one of their pretty colors, but I just could not see paying an extra $30 or $40 that they wanted, so black it is.

It arrived quickly from ye olde B&H. A quick examination proved that it is well made and easy to use. I tried it out the night of the super-moon a couple weeks ago.

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The conditions were not great, but I found the MeFoto intuitive and easy to use on site. That was a relief, especially as my studio tripod is a pan head. My monopod is a pistol grip, and this new piece is a ball head. For long exposure, I’ll have to pay  attention and let the vibration settle. Note to self – pack all the options for remotes. Lightweight does mean more vibration, but I do think I hit the sweet spot. It’s not too bad. I’ll let you know how it goes in AUSTRALIA!!! I’m really looking forward to the trip and giving this new piece of gear a work out. I am trying to brush the cobwebs off and change my habits up/push myself.

I also grabbed myself a ten stop neutral density filter. Maybe with my groovy new tripod I can bring home some long exposure beauty shots from my adventures down under.

And, after that comes my gig for CARNIVALE IN VENICE!!!! I think the new travel tripod is going to have a great first year.

 

 

Tools for Composition

It’s been a busy year of business, social media, web design, Photoshop explorations, etc. What I have not done a lot of is use my cameras. It’s time to get back to that.

As I think on photo making in a broader sense, my mind comes back, again and again, to one of the finest photo exercise books: Designing a Photograph by Bill Smith. It is published by Amphoto Books, a great publisher of photographic and educational books. I also love the books by Bryan Peterson, and his Learning to See Creatively is another great book on using the building blocks of art and design to make stronger photographs.

I was referred to Designing a Photograph by one of my great photo mentors, Blaine Pennington. The moment he mentioned it to me, I put it on the “buy it” list, and did so in short order. It is one of the resources I have gone back to over the years when I feel stuck or bored or uninspired. A pro shows up, no matter what!

Designing a Photograph

Designing a Photograph was written in the 80s and updated in 2001, but since it deals with photo and composition basics, that age does not matter at all. There are lots of books that cover this kind of material, but I love how Bill breaks it down. Does anyone remember those awful John Hedgecoe books that seemed to be everywhere in the 80s? Oh, how I hated them and him! Would I’d have had this as my basic instruction!

The first section is a discussion of the elements of good composition. The rest of the book breaks it down further and includes exercises to get brain and eye working together and thinking in new ways. Mr. Smith kind of sums up with the thought, “Look before seeing.” I’d add, “Think before looking”. At least, sometimes.

Have a natural and intuitive eye is great, but being able to use all the elements of composition to create more impact from strong subjects and any impact from initially boring seeming subjects separates the serious from the dabbler, no matter the strengths with which we begin our photographic journeys. Having a good eye made me lazy, lazy,lazy for years. Turning pro was a rude wakeup and took some major effort over a period of years to move my work forward.

Do yourself a favor, and at least start studying and playing with the elements of composition.

One last exercise that I thought was in this book but that I must have gotten somewhere else. It is kind of a “bringing it all together” exercise. Make a series of images (I did most of my formal education back in my film days, so we’d have said a roll of film, but… 36 images or so should do it) of an incredibly simple object. By simple, I mean an egg or a number two pencil or an eraser. Edit this session down to five to ten images. What do you see?

You would not believe some of the photo essays that I have seen come out of this exercise. The egg and the pencil in particular stand out and are why I always think of them when sharing this exercise. Did I learn this from a book or from one of my teachers? I can’t recall. But, if you really try to include some of the powerful tools that come out of the study of composition (as included in Designing a Photograph, et. al.), you can make magic, or at least images of which you might be surprisingly proud.

Bresson Quotes

I came across one of many great Henri Cartier Bresson quotes as the intro to Howard Zehr’s book The Little Book of Contemplative Photography, Seeing with Wonder, Respect, and Humility (you get that this is right up my alley, right?):

For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant, which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to “give  a meaning” to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry – it is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression. One must always take photographs with the greatest respect for the subject and for oneself.

While I am never one to tell others how to think and behave, I very much agree with/share this experience and approach.

Here’s some more quotes by Bresson, selected by the great John Paul Caponigro. Definitely explore his site/work further if you have not done so.

For those who worry when facing the camera

I just shared this link with a friend. It’s a brilliant little video about how to pose to avoid the dreaded double chin. This is good advice for everyone, even the young and unbelievably perky can create that undesired look with poor posing. So many people talk about worrying about this when they get in front of the camera. Check this out and get ready to show your best side next time you face down the lens.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qe3oJnFtA_k

Carol Golemboski’s Psychometry – Another Book for which I’d Give My Eye Teeth

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I have the app for Carol Golemboski’s Psychometry. If you don’t , you can get it free with a pre-order for this limited run art book:

Order Carol Golemboski‘s “Psychometry” by August 31 and get a free download of the Psychometry iPad app (limited to 50).

The Psychometry app is an interactive artist’s book that entices viewers to explore the haunting imagery of photographer Carol Golemboski. This dynamic iPad app uses new media to illuminate Golemboski’s psychologically charged photographic still lifes. Interactive features highlight her unique darkroom process, which combines photography and drawing in ambiguous and provocative ways. Studio tours, location shots, essays, video interviews and process demonstrations give viewers insight into the mind of the artist.

http://www.flashpowderprojects.com/#/psychometry/

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I love her work!

Hutterite – A Photo Book (also, more on memory)

Image from Kelly Hofer’s forthcoming “Hutterite: A Photo Book”.

Kelly Hofer is a fantastic Canadian photographer. He grew up in the Hutterite culture and began his photography as a teen in that community. He is Kickstartering a book of his work from that life: Hutterite, A Photo Book. ( days left, and it is just beautiful work.

 

Check out the article and the video about him, his work, leaving the community, and coming out. I like his comment late in the video about being glad he has all his images from his life growing up in the community, that he would feel the loss more greatly without them.

Photography is Good for You

As soon as I posted my last blog, Photography is Bad for You, I knew I really had to follow it up, and quickly with this one: Photography is good for you. When I say “you”, clearly, I mean me. Photography is good for me. There, that’s the correct way to talk about it.

I pressed the “post” button and knew I did not want to publicize that sentiment until I had it in context with its flip side. And, yeah, it was probably a little on the whiny side. Well, I’ve often heard that, “You have to suffer for your art.” And, while I do not quite believe it, as writ, I do believe that most of us face many obstacles, no matter what our path or focus. Sometime s a little vent helps move things along.

Having that out of my system, I stood looking out the window at the birds around our feeders. Just a few breaths and some loving attention later, I was swept by not only a gentle wave of calm, but by a swelling of my passion for photography. Someone once asked my what photography was all about for me. He mocked me and rolled his eyes when I answered, but I really do mean it: every frame is an act of love. I’d imagine that it easy to comprehend when I am photographing those I love, but it is even true when I am working commercially.

I choose my subject matter and my clients carefully. And, when I step behind the camera, it is a matter of service. My job is to capture whatever the subject matter is, to do it as kindly, attentively, and completely as I can. If the work is sympatico, it might be easier, though it might not. Conditions and circumstances also play into the level of difficulty. But, no matter what, I have to fall into what I am doing. I let much fall away and hope that seeing becomes a way of being for that time. There are moments where it is like flying or like a dream. Sometimes I press the shutter and I know that, barring some bizarre catastrophe, that was it. A magic moment captured, a memory held.

Like many creative say of being in their process, I often can’t tell you much about details beyond finding my image. One night, I came back, and my husband asked if there was a full band or just the singer songwriter on stage after a concert. “Ummmmmm…” “OK, was there a drummer?” “Ummmmm…” I looked at my screen and scrolled back a few images. “No!” I could have told you about my favorite shot, the great profile, the twinkly lights in the background, but… I had not heard the band. In fact, these days, when I want to listen to a concert, I shut my eyes, instinctively. Took much looking, getting lost in seeing in that special way, reaching for that magic, working for it, reflexively.

I looked at those little birds that day after posting the last blog. I breathed, and I thought, “I see you.” I see you. I really see you. I love you. I am in the moment. I am present. There is only the moment. Now, that is good for me. Photography is good for me.

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More on Memory, Photography, and Forgetting

I have been thinking about photography and memory since I wrote the blog about it. Maybe I always have. Here’s a another story touching on those subjects. It introduces forgetting, too, though I do not think that word is ever used. Yes, photography is spiritual stuff.

Fragments of a Life: A Curbside Mystery

Thank you, New York Times and Ms. Costa.

We are made of stories: written, spoken, and visual.

Do my pictures tell my story? Will they become trash one day (I imagine, so).

All is passing. The moment is precious.